March 28, 2018 09:00 AM

From Places in the Heart and Steel Magnolias to Lincoln, two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field has wowed audiences with her striking range as an actor. But she’s been protective of the details of her private life — until now.

In an exclusive with PEOPLE, Field shared the cover of her first memoir In Pieces, out Sept. 18, in which she reflects on her “complicated” childhood and her difficult relationship with her mother. According to her publisher Grand Central, the book will also reveal details about the rise of her career since her debut as a 17-year-old actress and her relationship with ex-boyfriend Burt Reynolds.

“I knew I had a story to tell and I knew I had to tell it. It’s taken me a great deal of time to figure out exactly what it was,” Field, 71, tells PEOPLE. The book took her seven years to write. 

“I have this life that no one really knows… or at least I didn’t even know truly,” she adds. “This is incredibly raw and intimate and personal. [The memoir includes] things I never thought I wanted to say out loud.” 

Grand Central Publishing

Field was born in Pasadena, California in 1946, and jumpstarted her career with her debut role in the TV show Gidget when she was 17. She would go on to win Emmy Awards for her role in the miniseries Sybil and E.R., star in multiple classic films, and, more recently, win multiple awards for playing Nora Walker in the ABC series Brothers & Sisters. But it wasn’t always easy, especially growing up in the repressive 1950s, she explained to PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly Editorial Director Jess Cagle.

“I lived in an environment where emotions and all the colors that women are were really not allowed at the dinner table, or in the living room, or anywhere. There was a very tight parameter you had to live within – how you dressed, how you sat, and who you were,” she told Cagle in March, 2016. “When I got onstage, it was the only time I felt that all the pieces could come together. It wasn’t that I was being somebody else, it was that I’m finally me, and I could be angry, and I could be mean, and I could be all of the colors that were simply not acceptable.”

Sally Field with son Eli Craig and his family
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Field is keeping details about the book under wraps until it publishes later this year. The little she has shared reveals how much acting improved her life for the better.

In Pieces is about the little girl that I was, about the teenager who backed into becoming a celebrity, and about the craft that taught me to stand on my feet, a craft that helped me find my way out of a complicated childhood,” she said in a statement when the book was first announced.

RELATED VIDEO: Sally Field Slams Body Brainwashing and How ‘Stick Woman’ Look Is ‘Not Gloriously Female’

The long-time actress has three sons and five grandchildren. She’s been publicly supportive of her son, Sam, who is gay, even going so far as to try to hook him up with his Olympian crush Adam Rippon.

“Sam…he’s insanely pretty. Find a way,” she texted her son in February, a message he was quick to share on Twitter.

Sally Field and son Samuel Greisman
Walter McBride/WireImage

Field has been less eager to share details about her own romantic history.

She met Reynolds on the set of their film Smokey and the Bandit in 1977, and they swiftly began dating. They went on to star in four films together and dated for nearly five years before calling it quits. Field hasn’t revealed much about the break up, but in a Nov. 2015 interview Reynolds told Vanity Fair that his former costar was “the love of my life.” 

“I miss her terribly,” Reynolds told Vanity Fair at the time. “Even now, it’s hard on me. I don’t know why I was so stupid. Men are like that, you know. You find the perfect person, and then you do everything you can to screw it up.”

Burt Reynolds and Sally Field
Ron Galella/WireImage

Field hasn’t remarried since she divorced her second husband, producer Alan Greisman, in 1993. While it’s unclear how much Field will share about her love life, the book promises to be a great read.

“I have been a lifelong fan of Sally Field’s work on the stage and screen, and it was a thrill to discover that her talents extend deep into the craft of writing, as well,” said Millicent Bennett, executive editor of Grand Central, per the release. “Told in her own appealing, unforgettable voice, this is a raw, gorgeous, and moving account of life as a woman in the second half of the twentieth century.”

In Pieces will publish on Sept. 18, 2018.

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